I still seem to be in a minority in preferring Family Plot to Alfred Hitchcock’s other late films, but after reseeing the film a few nights ago for the umpteenth time, I’m not about to change my opinion. It would appear that some of Hitchcock’s biggest champions, such as Robin Wood, tend to dismiss the film because it isn’t sicker. I tried to respond to their criticism at least provisionally in the opening of this review, written for the summer 1976 Sight and Sound, which they ran as their cover story for that issue and which I’ve now revised, but only minimally. — J.R.
“Everything’s perverted in a different way,” Hitchcock has noted; and perhaps no other filmmaker has illustrated this postulate better, by starting from precisely the opposite premise. Without a well-established sense of the normal, the abnormal doesn’t even stand a chance of being recognized, and the director has always made it his business to offer all the right signposts and comforts to guarantee complacency before proceeding to unhinge it. Yet one of the rules of the game is deception, and if the Master’s artistry has been identified more with rude shocks than with the subtler conditioning which makes them possible, one can be certain that this too plays a role in his overall strategies.… Read more »